Week Adjourned: 5.9.14 – CVS, Google, FiveFingers, Medtronic

The week’s top class action lawsuits and settlements. Top stories include CVS, Google, FiveFingersand Medtronic

CVS CaremarkTop Class Action Lawsuits 

Caremark to get healthy over vitamin E advertising claims? That’s right folks, the pharmacy chain is facing a consumer fraud class action lawsuit filed by a customer who alleges the labeling on the pharmacy chain’s vitamin E pills state that they have heart health benefits.

Filed by plaintiff Ronda Kauffman, on behalf a proposed nationwide class of consumers who purchased vitamin E pills from the major pharmacy chain, and subclasses for customers in Rhode Island and New York, the CVS/Caremark complaint alleges that the CVS labels are misleading to customers, making them think the vitamins could reduce the risk of heart disease.

“The overwhelming majority of scientific studies find no ‘heart health’ benefit to taking vitamin E supplements,” the lawsuit states. Hey – what about the placebo effect?

7,600 CVS pharmacies nationwide carried the vitamins, which retail for approximately $8 to $20 per bottle, the lawsuit states. Kaufman alleges she bought vitamin E tablets from a CVS store in New York after reading the label and lost money on the purchase, which she wouldn’t have made if not for the heart health claims.

The CVS lawsuit mentions several studies that allegedly show vitamin E provides no heart health benefits. Further, it cites data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which show heart disease to be the leading cause of death in the US.

“Defendants have preyed upon these legitimate health concerns by misrepresenting to consumers that its vitamin E products have a ‘heart health’ benefit when they do not,” the complaint states.

The lawsuit claims CVS has violated deceptive business practice laws in New York and Rhode Island.

So, it’s back to eating your veggies.

Do no evil? Isn’t that it? Well, Google Inc. is facing a proposed antitrust class action lawsuit alleging the company is trying to monopolize the search engine feature on Android smartphones and tablets in violation of state and federal antitrust laws.

The Google lawsuitFeitelson et al v. Google Inc., case number 5:14-cv-02007, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, claims that Google engages is anticompetitive behavior by allowing Android device manufacturers to preload its popular applications, such as Youtube and Google Maps, only if the companies agree to make Google’s search application the default search engine on their devices. Is that evil—or convenient?

The lawsuit states: “By way of Google’s coercive and exclusionary practice with Android OS device manufacturers … Google restrains and quashes competition for default search engine status before it even can begin. Google’s practice is a pure power play designed to maintain and extend its monopoly in handheld general search.”

Further, the plaintiffs claim that Google’s alleged conduct results in consumers overpaying for certain Android phones and tablets, as the price for the devices may have been lowered if rivals had been given a chance to compete for default search engine status, potentially by paying manufacturers.

“Such payments … would lower the bottom-line cost associated with production of the covered devices, which in turn would lead to lower consumer prices for smartphones and tablets,” the lawsuit states.

The class action seeks to represent all U.S. purchasers of Android phones and tablets made by manufacturers who have entered into an alleged agreements with Google requiring its search engine to be the default search tool on their devices. The suit seeks an injunction on these alleged practices, as well as monetary damages.

Could this end up like Microsoft? 

Top Settlements

Can you sue for ugliness, too? Vibram’s set to fork over for false health claims about FiveFingers..Turns out reinventing the wheel may be costly afterall. Vibram, the maker of a glovelike running shoe that purported to have health benefits such as reducing foot injuries and strengthening foot muscles—has agreed to settle a consumer fraud  class action lawsuit.

The FiveFingers lawsuit alleges the company’s health claims regarding its FiveFingers running shoes were false and misleading. Specifically, the lawsuit alleged that the claims were“deceptive” and stated “that FiveFingers may increase injury risk as compared to running in conventional running shoes, and even when compared to running barefoot.” The complaint also stated that the company misrepresented research on barefoot running, claiming “there are no well-designed scientific studies that support FiveFingers’ claims.”

Under the terms of the proposed settlement agreement, Vibram would pay $94 per pair of shoes bought. More than two dozen models of Vibram shoes will qualify for refund.

Further, Vibram has agreed to discontinue some aspects of its advertising and marketing campaigns and, in the absence of verifiable scientific evidence, will make no other statements about the health benefits of FiveFingers.

Medtronic, the maker of a spinal bone graft product called Infuse Bone Graft, has said it will pay $22 million to settle about 1,000 lawsuits stemming from claims of adverse health outcomes related to the product and claims that the manufacturer illegally promoted the Medtronic bone product for off-label uses. Medtronic is also reportedly preparing a further $140 million to settle an even larger number of anticipated claims.

Medtronic allegedly encouraged physicians to use its Infuse bone stimulator off-label in the cervical spine, which helped generate sales of more than $3 billion for the manufacturer. As of September of 2008, about 680,000 units of Infuse Bone Grafts had been used in the US, according to Medtronic. According to a report by the Senate committee investigating the product, the company’s undisclosed manipulation of information through the medical literature included overstating its benefits and downplaying concerns about serious complications. According to MedPage Today, during the past 15 years, Medtronic has paid $210 million in royalties and other payments to a group of 13 doctors and two corporations linked to doctors. Many of the lawsuits claim that it was by paying spinal surgeons the company was able to promote the off-label use of Infuse.

According to a press release Medtronic issued Tuesday, the $22 million will resolve the claims of some 950 people. A further 750 cases brought by 1,200 people are pending across the use, and there could be another 2,600 claims yet to be brought.

Ok—Folks—we’re done here—have a great weekend and we’ll see you at the bar!

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